My mother locks herself in my parent’s bedroom.
Annoyed, Dad asks, “Jenny, is your mother still up there?”
I nod, “yes.”
“Well, go and see if you can get her to stop this silly nonsense!”
I knock on the hollow wood-composite door. No answer. I jiggle the brass knob. Locked. What is she doing in there? I would never get away with this.
Innocently, I plead through the door, “Mom, it’s me. Are you going to come out soon? Dad wants to talk to you. Please.”
Still, no answer. But I hear her talking in a low voice. She’s on the phone?
When I come down the stairs empty-handed, Dad barrels his way right up. He pounds on the door. How is it that his fist doesn’t plow right through?
His face glows a dark crimson while he yells, “Debbie! Get your goddamn ass out of the bedroom this instant! Or I am going to get my ax and hack you the fuck up.”
Recognizing his tone, my organs quiver inside as if he’s said this to me.
Still she says nothing. I wish for a magic fairy to sweep her away so she doesn’t have to confront my father. I can’t bear to watch this.
Disgusted, he turns to me, “I don’t know what the fuck her problem is! Come on and help Daddy with the dishes, would ya?”
He washes. I dry. I hate drying because the kitchen towel smells of twenty spices that Dad uses to make his famous dirt-dog sauce. Like cumin. Yuck.
With his hands submerged in soapy water, dad looks back toward the living room windows.
“Jenny, do you see lights flashing right outside our apartment?”
I shrug. Since you always keep the blinds shut, I’d need x-ray vision to see out there.
It’s nagging him so he walks to the window and lifts one plastic panel from the venetian blinds in order to peer out. He looks up startled and motions for me to come over.
Whispering audibly, “Jenny! Son-of-a-bitch! There’s about nine cop cars outside our apartment. What the hell is going on?”
Dad opens the door reflexively. As complex manager, he’s usually aware of what’s going on.
As he unbolts the door, two officers approach.
They ask, “Is there a Deborah living here?”
Dad replies confidently, “Well, yes. She’s my wife.”
“Yes, sir. We’ve come because your wife’s sister called us about a domestic violence dispute. She said that you threatened to chop Deborah up with an ax.”
I peer from just behind Dad as they say all this. Holy shit. Are they going to arrest him?
Dad doesn’t panic. Instead, he bursts out laughing.
Suddenly composed, he continues, “Oh Lordy, Officers. She tricked you too! I’ve never touched that woman in my life. This is what she does.”
Pointing to his temple, Dad remarks, “She’s got a few screws loose, if you know what I mean?”
“Well, nevertheless, Mr. K, when someone calls us with this type of threat, we have to come and safely escort that person off the premises.”
“Sure thing Officer. If Debbie wants to leave, she could have just left.” Directing his gaze toward me, Dad proclaims, “This is our daughter, Jenny. I’ve raised her since she was four days old because Deborah ran off then too.”
The officers look stunned, but still skeptical.
Dad directs them with an arm wave, “My wife is upstairs. My daughter and I were just here wondering why she wouldn’t come out of her bedroom. You don’t know Deborah. She always has a plan up her sleeve. Don’t be surprised if she’s back here in week.”
Just then, Aunt Diane and her fiancé Bo walk through the door. This is actually messed up. Diane rescues her sister when she usually spends hours talking shit about my mother over lunch with Dad.
Dad chuckles as he directs his gaze toward Diane with a smug grin. “Di you know as well as I do that she’s making this up because she wants an excuse to leave.”
Aunt Diane replies, “I don’t know this time, Tommy.”
Now Dad smirks in Bo’s direction, “Well Bo, it looks like you’re stuck with both these crazy bitches. I don’t envy you, brother.”
After the cops escort my mother away, I expect Dad to be livid. Instead he acts as though nothing has transpired.
“Ahhh, your Father’s glad she’s gone. Now I can do what I want without all the bullshit nagging. Tommy-this and Tommy-that.”
He continues, “Jenny, don’t ever nag a man that way someday. Your mother is lucky she never got herself killed because of her mouth. You hear me? If you don’t like something or don’t want to do something, just say no. Don’t give a man a hundred reasons why and keep repeating yourself.”
I file his advice away in my mind even though I detest it.
A week later, I walk out from school right at 2:15pm on the dot. If I don’t, Dad worries. As I approach the light grey Oldsmobile, I nearly faint.
My mother is in the passenger seat. She rolls down the window. “Jenny Penny. Get in the back, my love.”
Holy fuck. They don’t teach us how to cope with this is catechism class.
As we drive down Cooper Street, the same police officer that came to escort my mother the week before, passes us on the opposite side. Even from my back-seat view, the officer’s mouth drops to the floor as he recognizes my parents.
Without missing a beat, Dad turns to Mom and says, “Boy, Deb, did you see the look on his face!?”
They both laugh in unison. It’s one of the sweetest moments they’ve ever had together.